Almost every adult in America has some credit card debt. That's normal, but letting that debt spiral about of control is never a good thing. If you feel stressed or overwhelmed by your credit card statement, here are the next steps to take.
1. Stop using your credit cards
This might seem obvious, but the quickest way to stop debt from building even more is to stop charging your credit cards. Seriously. Take them out of your wallet or even cancel them if you have to. There's nothing more self-defeating than adding to your balance while you're trying to pay it down.
2. Pay as much as you can reasonably afford
Now, it's time to focus on paying down your credit balance. Especially if your balance is pretty big, don't worry about paying it all off right away. Yes, letting it sit in your account longer will accrue more interest, but there's no reason to pay more than you can afford. The last thing you want is to spend money you needed for a medical emergency on your credit card debt. At the very least, pay the minimum payment on time every month. Depending on your budget, you can pay more on top of the minimum.
3. Use the debt snowball plan
The debt snowball plan was made popular by Dave Ramsey and it is an effective tool. First, you need to decide how much you want to spend on your credit card debt each month. Make sure it's an affordable amount that's not going to leave you penniless. Second, pay the minimum balances on all of your cards out of your debt budget. Third, use the rest of your debt budget on the card with the smallest balance. This method will motivate you forward as you quickly pay off cards with small balances and move on to the ones with bigger amounts.
An alternative to the debt snowball is the debt avalanche. The process is the same except in the end you focus on the card that has the highest interest rate — instead of the one with the smallest balance. The logic here is that you don't want your debt compounding further because of a high interest rate. But this might not be an encouraging plan if the card with the highest interest rate also has the biggest balance. Take a look at your finances and decide which one is better for you.
4. Don't fall back into bad habits
Once you finally do have your credit cards paid off (or the balances are down to manageable level), you don't want to repeat the cycle. If you find you can't control your spending, don't open another credit card account. In fact, go ahead and cancel any cards you still have open. Because you just paid down all of your debt, your credit score will be pretty great. No need to worry about keeping up with credit card payments if you can avoid it. Just stick to debit if you don't think your spending can be controlled on credit.
5. To really slow spending, only use cash
Whether or not you keep your credit accounts open, reigning in spending can be a challenge. If you're really serious about controlling frivolous purchases, set aside your debit and credit cards. Pay for everything in cold hard cash. The visual of seeing the amount in your wallet decrease will help keep you from those impulse purchases. Really want to commit? Only withdraw the amount of cash you plan to spend in a given week. This will ensure you don't go over your budget.
- How to Pay Off Credit Card Debt | Expert Advice from Credit.com ›
- American Household Credit Card Debt Statistics: 2016 - NerdWallet ›
- Credit Card Help: 8 things you must know about credit card debt ›
- The Fastest (And Slowest) Way To Pay Off Credit Card Debt ›
- The Fastest Way to Pay Off $10,000 in Credit Card Debt ›
When you take out a loan for a car, charge something to your credit card, or get a personal line of credit, there is going to be an interest rate that applies to your loan.
A lot of different factors go into what you will be charged, including your own personal credit score. But even those with flawless credit still see a minimum charge that they can't get around. That all goes back to the Federal Funds Rate.
One thing consumers rarely realize is that all of our banks are lending money to each other every night. Banks are legally required to maintain a certain percentage of their deposits in non-interest-bearing accounts at the Federal Reserve to ensure they have enough money to cover any withdrawals that may unexpectedly come up. However, deposits can fluctuate and it's very common for some banks to exceed the requirement on certain days while some fall short. In cases like this, banks actually lend each other money to ensure they meet the minimum balance. It's a bit hard to imagine these multibillion-dollar financial institutions needing to borrow money to tide them over for a bit, but it happens every single night at the Federal Reserve. It's also a nice deal for those with balances above the reserve balance requirement to earn a bit of money with cash that would normally just be sitting there.
The Federal Reserve
The exact interest rate the banks will charge each other is a matter of negotiation between them, but the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) (the arm of the Federal Reserve that sets monetary policy) meets eight times a year to set a target rate. They evaluate a multitude of economic indicators including unemployment, inflation, and consumer confidence to decide the best rate to keep the country in business. The weighted average of all interest rates across these interbank loans is the effective federal funds rate.
This rate has a huge impact on the economy overall as well as your personal finances. The federal funds rate is essentially the cheapest money available to a bank and that feeds into all of the other loans they make. Banks will add a slight upcharge to the rate set by the Fed to determine what is the lowest interest that they will announce for their most creditworthy customers, also known as the prime rate. If you have a variable interest rate loan (very common with credit cards and some student loans), it's likely that the interest rate you pay is a set percentage on top of that prime rate that your lender is paying. That's why in times of low interest rates (it was set at 0% during the Great Recession), a lot of borrowers should go for fixed interest rate loans that won't increase. However, if the federal funds rate was relatively high (it went up to 20% in the early 1980's), a variable interest rate loan may be a better decision as you would be charged less interest should the rate drop without the need to refinance.
The federal funds rate also has a major impact on your investment portfolio. The stock market reacts very strongly to any changes in interest rates from the Federal Reserve, as a lower rate makes it cheaper for companies to borrow and reinvest while a higher rate may restrict capital and slow short-term growth. If you have a significant portion of your investments in equities, a small change in the federal funds rate can have a large impact on your net worth.
Whether you're leaving a job involuntarily, departing for something new, or just want to prepare for the unknown, it is smart to understand all your options regarding your 401k.
Frugal gifting often gets a bad reputation. However, this shopping method does not make you cheap — it makes you practical. Frugal gifts often avoid waste and overspending and can be just as meaningful (if not more so) as any other present.
With the National Retail Federation predicting each consumer this holiday season to spend upwards of $1,000 on holiday gifts amidst an economic recession —this year might be the perfect time to reconsider your spending budget. We've formulated the ultimate list of frugal gift-giving ideas to get you started.